The software of democracy - Macleans.ca

The software of democracy

by

Mark Kingwell’s essay on political civility, to which I referred last week, is now online.

It is sometimes said that literacy is the software of democracy. Let’s be more accurate, and more demanding. The real software of democracy is not bare literacy, which permits and even enjoys all manner of rhetorical nonsense and short-sighted demagoguery. It is political literacy, the ability to engage in critical dialogue with ideas both agreeable and disagreeable, interests that align with ours and those that do not. We need to learn this skill, run it, and revise it constantly by repeated engagements. We must be prepared to sacrifice something we value, for the sake of the larger good. That is, finally, the only thing I or anyone could mean by “civility.”